The Reluctant Travel Writer

South Island Mobile

Leonard Lea Frazer

Since the first Maoris arrived in single outrigger canoes New Zealanders have been on the go using every available means of conveyance. Today, visitors arrive by cruise ship or by jet plane. Transportation on the two main islands comes in the form of train and bus service. For myself, I preferred to camp out and travel in a rented car while exploring the South Island.

 Rent a scooter and get around on the South Island.
Rent a scooter and get around on the South Island.
At the Seal Colony at Kaikoura.
At the Seal Colony at Kaikoura.

 

 

 

 

 

Crossing over the choppy Cook Strait from New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington on the North Island took three hours, and when the ferry finally arrived I was able to drive the rental on to solid ground once again. The sleepy port of Picton was there to greet me. Picton is the marine gateway to the South Island and at the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound.

I followed a winding mountain road in the direction of Nelson. At the top of the first hill I stopped at a viewpoint to take photographs of Picton from above and the Interislander, which was being loaded for the return voyage back to Wellington. I had time to reflect and be thankful that I had done my Travel Writer’s Homework. “The South Island has so much to offer,” I thought to myself. My travel guides and maps told me I could do hiking on a glacier, white-water canoeing, cycling, snow-boarding, diving with the seals, swimming with the dolphins, downhill skiing, jet boating, and, at Wanakai, Bungee jumping.

Nelson offered tandem sky-diving, sea-kayaking, mountain walks and multiday wilderness rafting on the Karamea and Buller Rivers. I headed south past Mt. Owen through the Victoria Forest Park, stopped briefly at Springs Junction, and headed south east through the Lewis Pass to Hanmer Springs. That evening, at the Hanmer Springs Resort Hotel, I enjoyed a soak in the 39 degrees Celsius hot springs pool, dinner at a nearby restaurant and a pint at the lodge’s own pub.

A mural of “Swimming with the dolphins”.
A mural of “Swimming with the dolphins”.
Punting on the River Avon, Christchurch.
Punting on the River Avon, Christchurch.

In the morning I turned south to Christchurch where I checked out the Cathedral, Speaker’s Corner, boats on the River Avon and a quick stop at the info centre. The other attractions of Christchurch included hot air balloon trips out of Methven, a ride on a gondola to the top of Mt. Cavendish, or just wandering thought the gardens at Tree Crop Farm Park.

I continued driving south to the coastal town of Timaru where I set up my tent at the Glenmark Campsite on the edge of town. Timaru is noted for good surfing at nearby Patiti Point where one can “surf with the sea lions.”

The next day I headed for my ultimate destination. Following the eastern coastline in the direction of Dunedin I stopped at the famous Moeraki Boulders, 30 km south of Oamaru. There, strewn on the beach, like giant marbles, I found a geological marvel. Known in Maori as “Te Kaihinaki,” (ancient boulders) these spherical creations formed millions of years ago around lime crystals in the mudstone, have, over the years, become exposed and now dot the shoreline at Moeraki.

Sea-kayaking in New Zealand.
Sea-kayaking in New Zealand.
My Kiwi travel guides and maps.
My Kiwi travel guides and maps.

From nearby Dunedin visitors can explore the Otago Central Rail Trail on foot or by bike, take a ride on the Taieri Gorge Railway, and visit the Maori Cave Paintings or the 25 million-year-old fossils near Duntroon.

However, I steered north up to the Kaikoura Peninsula. At Kaikoura I took in the Maori Leap Caves on a 40 minute tour, (a sea-formed limestone cave discovered in 1958) took pictures of the bay and, on the south bay side, walked along the rocky beach to the local Seal Colony. The tide was out and as the waves came crashing in on the rocks, disturbing the many sunning seals, I was able to take some great photos. Later, I set up my beach-side camp again where I spotted some people out scuba diving just off the shore.

The town of Kaikoura is 183 km north of Christchurch and also offers whale-watching trips, dolphin-swimming tours, a 30-minute sheep shearing show and marine animals that include orcas, pilot whales, blue penguins and royal and wandering albatross.

The next day I headed for Picton and once again boarded the ferry that would take me away from the South Island, the island of innovative outdoor thrills.